Throw Back Thursday Review of “Dragonslayer”
Directed by: Matthew Robbins
By now, if you’ve read many of these TBT reviews, you have probably figured out that I am an 80s kid. Born and raised in a decade where family films were heavy on the fantasy/sci-fi, and not afraid to go dark and scare the crap out of me and my friends in the process. I was (and still am to this day) fortunate enough to have a vivid imagination and a strong ability to suspend disbelief. My parents, bless their souls, encouraged my love of fantasy and science fiction by purchasing VHS tapes of nearly every movie from the family section of our local Blockbuster Video. One of my absolute favorites was the 1981 dragon vs. sorcerer epic “Dragonslayer”.
The kingdom of Urland has long been plagued by a fierce dragon. When a group of citizens, led by Valerian (Clarke) seek the aid of sorcerer Ulrich (Richardson) to help them end the dragon’s reign of terror he agrees. Before they set off on their journey though, Ulrich is killed by the commander of the king’s guard. Taking up his master’s cause, the apprentice Galen (MacNicol) decides to take on the dragon himself. Soon after, Galen discovers that Valerian is in fact a woman in disguise, in order to avoid being entered in the king’s lottery to determine which female will be the next sacrifice to the dragon (which by the way is called Vermithrax). While attempting to put aside their newfound attraction to one another, and armed with the magic from Ulrich’s amulet, the two set off to destroy Vermithrax.
The second act of the movie drags a little, and deals mostly with the politics behind the lottery and how the king has protected his daughter, Princess Elspeth, from being included in said lottery. Also there’s the not so coniving love that is blooming between Galen and Valerian. Blah blah and blah and let’s move on to the good stuff.
The final act is pure awesome! There are sword fights, there are vicious little baby dragons that eat a woman’s legs, and there is the most badass looking, angry killer of a dragon ever put on screen. As I watched “Dragonslayer”, for the first time in probably two decades, I never stopped being blown away by how good it looks. Not just the dragon (which is an incredible accomplishment in practical effect making), but also the costume design and the set pieces. It still looks better than most of the CGI-saturated stuff we see today. Not only did that have it’s effect on me, but I also found myself wishing Disney would go back to this kind of film. It’s original, dark, and actually exciting… what a novel concept! I know they will keep re-creating/ruining all of their old classics instead, but it would be really cool to see them commit some of their billions of dollars into developing something even close to “Dragonslayer”.